Ahead of the NHL Draft, MLHS’ Anthony Petrielli joined Sportsnet Fan 590 to discuss the various Mitch Marner trade and extension rumours, the likelihood of a Marner trade, and the Maple Leafs’ cap flexibility and biggest needs this offseason.

Petrielli on whether there is a number where a Mitch Marner extension makes enough sense for the Leafs to keep him in the fold:

It would depend on who you ask. Most fans would probably say no. I think it has hit that point for a lot of people.

In terms of whether there is a number that makes sense — of course, there is. He is still a really good player. He is probably getting treated slightly unfairly in terms of how he seems to be wearing their playoff struggles when he has technically been more productive than both Auston Matthews and William Nylander to this point. Even though that hasn’t necessarily been the case in Games 6 and 7, over the body of work, he did lead them in scoring just last year in the playoffs.

If you were talking realistically about what is ideal, you would like to see the number align with William Nylander’s extension that is about to kick in. You have two first-line wingers, and ideally, those two match. But to be honest, when you look at the two players, William Nylander, by and large, gets outproduced by Mitch Marner every single season.

Even last year, Nylander scored 98 points, but at five-on-five, he was actually on the ice for more goals against than goals for. That is not something that ever really happens to Marner. He is always pushing play and outscoring opponents. He is always among the top 10 scorers. That is an every-year thing for Mitch Marner. This is more of a newer thing for Nylander, and still, there is some hesitation as to whether he can continue to do that year in and year out.

What is fair to me? It is slightly more than Nylander. What is most palatable? Something aligned with Nylander.

On how he would handicap the likelihood of a Marner trade coming to fruition:

If you were to boil it down, I would ultimately say no. I think that is why we are hearing discussions about extensions. It has been floated in and out over the past month.

They are clearly trying to take trade offers. Brad Treliving could’ve squashed the conversation at any point. He elected not to. He is either some sort of poker player, or he is just being honest about the situation.

Last year, with William Nylander, he was honest. It was strictly, “We want him back.” He left no room for ambiguity. He was crystal clear. He has not said that at any point when it comes to Marner. He has said he is a really good player and a superstar at a number of times. At no point has he sat there and explicitly said, “We want him back. We want to sign him. He is going to be a Maple Leaf next year.” That has not happened.

The problem is that trading him is extremely complicated. Right now, the reputation in the league and with the Leafs is not the best. That is kind of sullying his value. That is why we constantly see Brad Treliving coming out and saying, “He is a star.” He is a star. He has been a top-10 scorer, by and large, for the last five years. It is not a fluke at this point. He is a high-end producer. There are a ton of teams who are not even sniffing the playoffs and would love a player like that to get them to the playoffs.

He is trying to find value that matches it. That is going to be hard, and then you get the NMC, and then you get the question of the extension. There are so many factors working against agreeing to a trade and getting good value in a trade. That trends more to the point of bringing him back under a new coach, improving the defense, and seeing how it goes again.

On whether Jake Guentzel’s free-agent sweepstakes could have ramifications on the Marner trade market:

It is possible. Part of it is when Guentzel signs. Is he going to be a day-one signing? He could take his time and do whatever he wants. If it stretches, the deeper it goes, it’s just like with Marner — the longer it goes, the harder it is to move him. It is hard to know if Guentzel is a day-one signing.

I think Carolina makes sense as a trade partner, but I don’t think Carolina makes sense in terms of their salary-cap structure, their owner, and their market. I have a hard time sitting there and looking at their franchise and saying, “They are going to pay Marner $12 million, or whatever it is, on nearly a $100 million contract.”

I bring up Carolina because I know they want to keep Guentzel. Vancouver is aggressively pursuing him. I find it hard to see Marner waiving from one crazy Canadian market to go to another crazy Canadian market. I still find it hard to see Vancouver deciding Marner is going to be the highest-paid player on their team.

I don’t know how tied he would be to the teams interested in Guentzel, but I do think that domino is noteworthy in the overall story. To that point, it is noteworthy in the Marner trade conversation: How many teams are going to be willing to make Marner their highest-paid player?

On the cap flexibility and opportunity to add this offseason if Marner remains on the team:

I think they are pretty good for this offseason, no matter what happens. It is not like the money from a new extension is applied to this year’s cap. They have roughly $20 million in cap space. They technically have 10 forwards signed. They could do very little at forward. It would look the same, so that would bother a lot of people, but they were second in the league in goals last year.

Marner missed 15 games or so. McMann got hurt. Knies had a 35-point rookie season. There is a reasonable amount of internal improvement from that side of things. Jarnkrok missed 30-some-odd games. Some better health and some level of internal improvement of your Nick Robertsons, Pontus Holmbergs, Knies, and McManns, and they are a solid group.

The difference, really, is that they have more money to spend, given how many roster spots they already have taken care of and how many cheap contracts they have in the fold now. The guys they signed last year, on the ideal side, are more second and third-line guys — the Max Domis and Tyler Bertuzzis. Even if everything went well with John Klingberg, he would’ve been, at best, a second-pairing defenseman. But they have enough money to sign an actual top-pairing defenseman.

That would make a significant difference. I don’t think we are used to it in Toronto. They have really just not had a good defense, by and large, for the last 20 years. At this point, we are not even sure what it looks like. They have enough money to do it this year, and there are enough quality defensemen on the market that it would pretty drastically change their team.

On the need at center this offseason:

To me, at forward, center should be the only priority.

If you look at the left side right now, you are hoping for Matthew Knies to take a step. He is a good player, no doubt. Bobby McMann showed flashes of being a good player. Nick Robertson was productive, and he is under their control as an RFA unless they don’t want him to be. Pontus Holmberg is kind of similar — showed some ability to move up the lineup, but by and large, he can take shifts in the league and be a contributor. Connor Dewar is the same thing. It is a reasonable left side.

On the right side, they are solid with William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Calle Jarnkrok, and I guess Ryan Reaves. The top three is very solid.

Center is where it gets interesting. I don’t think John Tavares is going to be an albatross this year. He had 29 goals and 65 points with a career-low shooting percentage. It will be reasonable to some degree, but there will be a drop-off. This is the first time when they are really going into the season — first time in six years — where you are saying, “Maybe they don’t have two 80+ point centers.”

They need to be prepared for that. They need to have some sort of hedge that balances it out and someone who can take some shifts. There are two different kinds of seasons: the regular season, and the playoffs. Is John Tavares a productive second-line center in the regular season? Yes, but do you want him going up every other night against Sam Bennett in the playoffs? Probably not.

If you look at the top-end teams and who they are running out as their second-line center or even their third-line center, you don’t necessarily want it to be John Tavares going up against them shift in and shift out. And you don’t want it to be David Kampf. They do need some sort of in-between center — if you want to call it that — who is good enough to move up the lineup, is comfortable as a 3C, and is someone who can drive play and be effective.